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With omnipotence , omnipotence , or omnipotence ( lat . Omnis "completely", "all" and potentia , potestas "power") is the capability, each event - possibly even beyond scientific explainability - to set in motion or influence.

The omnipotence of God

Ancient religious ideas without an almighty god

The gods of Greek mythology were not all powerful. Uranus was emasculated by Kronos because he was the first to invent injustice, so the latter explained the mother Gaia . Zeus - the most powerful of the gods - again disempowered him and needed the help of the Hekatoncheirs himself in order to be able to survive in the fight against the titans . In Virgil's work , however, he is often referred to by the metric Júpiter ómnipoténs , and the fata , unclear to identify either with a fate higher than him or with his own volitional decisions, are infallible and unalterable, but are particularly characterized by the fact that they leave room for maneuver within set limits. “Omnipotens” stands here as the epithet ornans in analogy to expressions like ignipotens (the ruler of fire: Vulcanus ) or armipotens (the mighty weapon: Mars ).

Different conceptions of the concept of omnipotence

Omnipotence as an attribute of a god characterizes the monotheistic religions .

The concept of omnipotence has been used in different meanings. There are three main meanings:

  1. God can do absolutely everything, for him there is not only no conceivable, but no limitation of action at all, i. that is, he can also transgress the laws of nature and the laws of logic (e.g. through contradicting action).
  2. God can do everything, i.e. That is, to intervene in the course of the world and thereby violate the laws of nature (i.e., God can work miracles ), but not act contradictingly.
  3. God is able to do everything except contradicting action, but is limited in his action by various other properties or circumstances (for example all-goodness, love, enabling free will , comprehensibility, immutability of the past, respect for the laws of nature, compliance with what he himself promised or announced has ( God's Word )).

Omnipotence and omniscience

Often omniscience is considered to be a logical consequence of omnipotence. Writes Gerhard Streminger : "The property of the omniscience of the Almighty should be included in the term, because a being which lacks knowledge, also lack power. If, on the other hand, a being is omnipotent, it is also omniscient. "

On the other hand, there is the view that omnipotence and omniscience of a God are mutually exclusive - at least if omniscience is understood to include complete knowledge of the future. Richard Dawkins argues that “it has not escaped the attention of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he will intervene with his omnipotence and change the course of history. But that means that he can no longer change his mind about the intervention, and therefore he is not omnipotent. "

Criticism of the concept of omnipotence

The concept of omnipotence comes under fire especially in connection with the theodicy problem. The combination of omnipotence, omnipotence, omniscience and comprehensibility in one deity is problematic in view of the sufferings in the world and it seems as if a point must fall. According to a theory expressed by Hans Jonas , this would be omnipotence, because it is logically invalid. Power is only power when it meets resistance, but infinite power no longer has any resistance, so here omnipotence would be an empty power.

The omnipotence paradox : an almighty God should be able to create a stone that he cannot lift himself. Either he can, then he is not omnipotent, otherwise he could lift him. Or he cannot, even then he is not omnipotent.

It can be countered that for an omnipotent God the rules of logic - which give rise to the paradox - do not apply, so that even with an absolute understanding of omnipotence (compare above) a paradox would not arise at all. According to this interpretation, God could act without restriction, that is, he could also create a stone that could not be lifted, in spite of continued omnipotence. However, this leads to the fact that such a God can no longer be (differentiated) recognized and understood, and ultimately exhausts itself in an empty term about which no further reasonable statements are possible. A concept understood in this way not only results in arbitrary possibilities (there would no longer be an impossibility); even the statement that nothing is impossible would be meaningless, since it is itself a logical conclusion (and the invalidity of logic in this sense is represented by absolute omnipotence). Such an interpretation of the concept of omnipotence is found only very rarely, however, since such a god can no longer be part of a coherent teaching and it is pointless for humans to speculate about something that by definition cannot be understood with comprehensible means (logic) can recognize or interpret. Therefore, the vast majority of philosophers and theologians advocate a more moderate concept of omnipotence that does not lead to the paradox mentioned above.

According to realism, a solution to the paradox lies in the fact that what is in itself contradicting itself must not be demanded from God either. God is therefore not only logical, but the source of all logic, indeed of the logos themselves. To demand a lack of the perfect or to expose a limitation for an ability is in itself (and precisely because of God) indecisive. Therefore, according to these teachings, God's perfection, to which his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipotence also belong, remains untouched; compare also natural theology .

However, these attempts to resolve them go hand in hand with limitations to the concept of omnipotence or can be invalidated by reformulating the paradox.

Religious ideas without almighty God

Some monotheists completely reject the idea that God is omnipotent. In Unitarian Universalism , in large parts of Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism , and in some currents of Protestantism , process theology and open theism , it is said that God does not work in the world by coercion but by conviction. God manifest himself in the world through inspiration and the creation of possibilities, not through miracles and violations of the laws of nature.

The Protestant theologian Dorothee Sölle developed a critical attitude towards the doctrine of the omnipotence of God. She was of the opinion: "God has no other hands than ours."

The Orthodox theology teaches instead of omnipotence that God's power is unlimited ( negative theology ).

The omnipotence of the state

Occasionally the term is also used in connection with state action, especially in forms of government in which this action is subject to insufficient control .

The omnipotence of humans (omnipotence fantasies)

That being who masters all conceivable situations, is not subject to the laws of becoming and decaying and has fantastic abilities is omnipotent . B. to achieve with the means of the will alone what the rest of the world is denied. It is also worth mentioning fantasies of omnipotence, in which the human being, as a reaction formation, encounters the deep offense of at least not being able to influence his own origin .


  • Herbert Frohnhofen : Is Christian God Almighty? On the current discussion about an old creed. In: Voices of the Time. 210: 519-528 (1992).

Web links

Wiktionary: omnipotence  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See the theory of the nominalist Wilhelm von Ockham: Georg Dietlein: Macht und Almmacht Gottes bei Wilhelm von Ockham. A philosophical-theological investigation into the question of omnipotence and freedom. Meidenbauer, Munich 2008, ISBN 3-89975-860-9 .
  2. The philosopher Joachim Kahl writes : “The irreversibility of time is the insurmountable limit of every omnipotent idea.” ( The answer of atheism )
  3. Thus writes the theologian Hans Küng "God acts [...] as the [...] ruler of the world - omnipresent (omni-present) and omnipotent (omni-potent) - with full respect for the laws of nature, of which he is himself." 24 theses on the question of God ), series Piper SP 171, Piper, Munich / Zurich, ISBN 3-492-10171-2 .
  4. On the goodness of God and the sufferings of the world. An overview of the theodicy problem , from: Enlightenment and Criticism 1/2003, p. 11 ff.
  5. Richard Dawkins: Der Gotteswahn , ISBN 978-3-548-37232-7 , p. 109.
  6. Sam Storms: Eastern Orthodoxy, Nov. 8, 2006